U.S. Aircraft

(Note: the thumbnail picture only shows the side view; the full picture also includes the top-down view.)

When it was delivered to the US Navy in 1937, the Devastator was the most advanced torpedo bomber in the world. A mere four years later, however, the TBD was practically obsolete, a fact which became painfully obvious when the majority of the Devastators sent against the Japanese at the battle of Midway were shot down without hitting their targets. Luckily its replacement (the Grumman TBF Avenger) was coming on line at that time, and soon all Devastators were withdrawn from front-line service. This drawing shows a Devastator in the bright pre-war color scheme.

This stubby but rugged little plane was the main fighter for the U.S. Navy during the hard-fought first year of the war. It saw action at the Coral Sea, Midway, and the Solomons Campaign. Despite claims that it was no match for the Zero, it more than held its own, due to its solid construction and the quality of the pilots that flew her. While it was replaced by the F6F Hellcat in most Navy fighter squadrons during 1943, a variant (the FM-2 Wildcat built by General Motors) continued to be used from jeep carriers until the war's end.

The Dauntless was the most famous of the dive bombers used by the US Navy, earning its place in history by destroying four Japanese carriers at the battle of Midway. It also served with distinction at Coral Sea and in the Solomons campaign, and continued to be used until late 1944. It had slotted dive brakes that could be opened in the trailing edge of the wings to slow down its rate of descent when making near vertical dives on the target. The main bomb was attached to a tong-like sling that swung down and propelled the bomb forward and down in order to clear the plane's propeller.

The Avenger was designed to replace the TBD Devastator as the torpedo plane used by the U.S. Navy. While its initial combat debut at the Battle of Midway was not very impressive (only six were available, and five of those were shot down), eventually the Avenger came into its own, despite being hampered by the poor quality of U.S. torpedoes during most of the war. It featured a long internal torpedo bay that could also carry large bombs, and later in the war Avengers fired rockets from underwing mounts at ground and ship targets. Its most characteristic feature was a revolvable gun turret with a .50 caliber machine gun that that was operated by the rear gunner.

Known as the most outstanding carrier-based fighter to be used operationally in WWII, the Corsair has become legendary. Known to the Japanese as "Whistling Death", the Corsair was the first U.S. fighter to exceed 400 m.p.h. Initially thought by the Navy high command to be unsuitable for carrier operations, it was given to the Marines, who operated from land bases. The Marines were happy to replace their old Wildcats with this hot new fighter, and soon showed everyone what the Corsair was capable of. Pappy Boyington and his Black Sheep Squadron was one of many who used the Corsair's abilities to its fullest.

In 1943 the Hellcat began to replace the U.S. Navy's Grumman Wildcats as the main carrier-based fighter. The Hellcat was specifically designed to counter the Japanese Zero's strong points and take advantage of its weak points. It scored more victories than the Vought Corsair (more than 5000 to the Corsair's 2000+), despite the fact that it saw combat six months after the Corsair did. (This, however, was due to the fact that many more Hellcats were produced and available than was the Corsair.)

The second dive bomber to be made by Curtiss under the name Helldiver (the first was a biplane), the SB2C was the last in a long line of pure dive bomber designs for the U.S. Navy. The Helldivers, also known by the nickname "Big Tailed Beast", replaced the aging Douglas Dauntless on the U.S. Navy carriers in the end of 1944. Initial teething problems left many wishing they had kept their dependable Dauntlesses. By the war's end, however, the SB2C was proving its worth, especially in the Battle of the Phillipine Sea and the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Other aircraft used in combat areas by the U.S. Navy and Marines include:

Consolidated PBY Catalina
Consolidated Liberator/Privateer
Curtiss SOC Seagull
Grumman J2F Duck
Lockheed PV Harpoon
North American Mitchell
Vought OS2U Kingfisher

For more detailed information on any of the above aircraft, visit my companion website:
"American Aircraft in World War II"